The Youth Progressive Policy Group Says It’s Time for Teens to Vote Like Adults

We’re taxed like adults. Let’s vote like them, too.

The Youth Progressive Policy Group (YPPG) is a student-led coalition with a clear mission: to successfully pass the Young Voter Act, a bill dedicated to lowering the voting age in New York State to 17 years old. YPPG aims to increase political engagement among students, paving the way for more progressive policy change. Lowering the voting age by just one year could make all the difference for millions of teens around the state, and set a glowing example of how students can effect social change for the rest of the country.

A clear question remains: can 17-year-olds be responsible voters?

A study done by Citigroup found that 80% of American students work while in school. Yet many of these students are teens who, despite paying taxes like their older counterparts, have no say in where their tax dollars go.

Without the right to vote, teens are denied one of the most fundamental means of sharing their views on the allocation of state funds and subsequently, their political priorities. Lowering the voting age can help change this; we can help teen taxpayers obtain the political power they deserve.

Beyond giving teens a say in where their tax dollars ago, lowering the voting age can have far-reaching social implications. Passing the Young Voter Act could not only contribute to a more politically engaged electorate, but could also help increase voter turnout. Voting at a younger age could help teens develop healthy voter habits that may last a lifetime. We have the opportunity to set a unique precedent for the rest of the country and show that by empowering youth, we empower the system.

The Responsibility vs Age Debate

A clear question remains: can 17-year-olds be responsible voters? With the proper initiatives, yes! The Young Voter Act mandates the implementation of civics sessions in public schools to inform students about state and local politics, so 17-year-old voters will make informed and responsible decisions.

Upon the completion of such courses in their schools, high school juniors will be able to complete their state voter registration at age 16 and will be offered voter registration forms in school—the opportunity to register as a state voter will literally be placed in our hands! Students of all socioeconomic backgrounds will then have equal access to voter registration forms, ensuring a kind of inclusivity and equity often lacking in federal politics.

Youth Progressive Policy Group

Since the Youth Progressive Policy Group’s inception, the group has galvanized support for the Young Voter Act among teens across New York City. On Thursday, March 30th, high school students gathered at the Bard Graduate Center in upper Manhattan for YPPG’s first public meeting, enticed by the idea of having a greater voice in state politics and, perhaps, by free food.

Teens broke out into groups that focused on different aspects of the coalition’s work: messaging and outreach, lobbying efforts, and contacting elected officials. Students wrote letters to assembly members in support of the bill, created flyers advertising YPPG, learned about state politics and the lobbying process, strategized youth outreach, and discussed the significance of YPPG’s work in a volatile, post-election political climate.

But there’s much more to be done. YPPG hopes to expand its membership not only to more students and communities throughout New York City, but to those around New York State. The group is open to students of all political ideologies and backgrounds. And, of course, the Young Voter Act must undergo the legislative processes of the New York State Assembly. YPPG has been working with progressive Assembly Member Robert Carroll to pass the Young Voter Act, and we hope to inspire many more assembly members to join our cause.

On Tuesday, May 9th, YPPG is heading to Albany for a day of lobbying.

We will visit offices of state assembly members to express our support for the Young Voter Act and the urgency of political inclusion for students, particularly within the context of a volatile national political climate. The Young Voter Act provides a means of reclaiming Democratic power and pushing for progressive policy change through state legislature in the face of frustrating federal politics. This is a unique opportunity for students to have their voices heard, but it’s also much more than that.

Lowering the voting age can inspire political engagement earlier in one’s lifetime and contribute to a more active, informed electorate. Ultimately, through the Young Voter Act, we aim to raise and mobilize responsible voters who will contribute to a responsible system.

To learn more about YPPG, check out our website and follow us on Facebook @YPPG.ny and Twitter @YPPGOfficial.

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Ilana Cohen is a junior at The Beacon School in New York City with a...